Lessons Learned from Eric, Andrew and Amy

27 Aug

To listen along use this link: http://tobtr.com/s/7881745

All writers are story tellers of some kind. They are tasked with painting a picture with words. Even technical writers are illustrating scientific principles in a way that others can understand them. Some writers tell horror stories like my friend Ann Wilmer-Lasky, whose latest book, The Cottage, is now available as a hardback book or as a Kindle book on Amazon. Some, like me, talk about life. Everyone’s life is different, but I believe we all have lessons to learn, and I believe we can use even the worst of situations to inspire us to be better in every way. Every week when I broadcast, and even before I broadcast my radio show, I think about the message I want to share. Some weeks are just about fun and making people smile. Some weeks are more serious, but every week is about living a better life no matter what the circumstances of your life are. It’s what I aspire to do every day. Sometimes I can see the progress like I have this week as I tackle the overgrown parts of my yard. Yesterday our lovely sanitation workers took away five huge bundles of branches and five bags of yard waste. It was a joy to watch it go, and I have been viewing it as a core workout as I pull and tug and rake the weeds and make my yard a lovelier place to be. Weeding is something that I usually detest doing, but this week it has brought me comfort. I began this journey of weeding because my son and his friends took down some very large branches, and the mess in my yard was incredible. My oldest son worked for two hours one day and six on another to clean up the mess and left my yard looking as nice as he could. His work inspired me to get to some of the projects I had been putting off all summer, so I began weeding. I have spent several days over the last week making progress. I work either one hour or until I fill a lawn and leaf bag, which is the only way that our garbage men will take yard waste. It has been satisfying to see the progress and has been a comfort to me emotionally as well because this past weekend was not the kind of weekend I had planned.

Last week, my middle son who had just left for college texted his dad that he would like to have a bike on campus. Since he hadn’t really ridden a bike since Junior High School and had grown over a foot since then, he needed a new one. I got one for him and was delivering it Friday when he asked me to pick him up at a campus building rather than his dorm. My son is majoring in architecture and is required to buy a $400 kit with all sorts of supplies so that he can complete the many projects he has to do this semester. The kit is huge and heavy so we were happy to pick him up. After the kit was in the car with the new bike and my other two sons, there was little room left so my son decided to ride his new bike across campus and have us meet him at his dorm. We drove around and waited and waited for him. He finally drove up, locked up his bike and walked into his building. He was gone for nearly ten minutes and when he came out, he had a bandage around his hand. Apparently someone had stepped in front of him and he wrecked. His hand was a mess and when I asked him to squeeze my fingers, he nearly passed out, so off we went to the emergency room. In my mind, it was worth the three hours to find out that he had not broken any bones and his wounds were professionally cleaned and bandaged. In the midst of this, I got a panicked call from the mother of a schoolmate of my youngest that her son was missing and hadn’t been seen since school let out three hours earlier. We were the last people to see him and my heart just sank because I had this fleeting thought that I should offer the young man a ride home, but I didn’t because I don’t know him well and didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable. Luckily, the young man was found unharmed a bit later. He has walked eight miles home, so that was my Friday night.

Sunday, I got a text from a friend who asked me about a set of twins that graduated with my son in June. She asked if there was a girl named Amy who had a twin named Eric. There was. The same friend told me that it was beginning to surface on social media that she had passed in a car accident and the world stopped. I have known Amy and Eric since they were three when they attended preschool with my son. I’ve watched Amy go from a shy but happy three year old to a young woman who is stunningly beautiful inside and out. I refused to partake in the social media frenzy until I knew it was true because I didn’t want to be part of anything that would hurt her family, especially if it was untrue. Unfortunately, my husband found confirmation on one of our local news websites. This beautiful young woman with seemingly so much life ahead of her was gone. A part of me wanted to know what happened and when I found out some of the details, I was so sad. She wasn’t’ wearing a seat belt, and I know her mom would have been the type to leave the car in park until all seat belts were fastened. I heard that she was driving erratically, and I know her parents would have carefully taught her how to drive safely. The more I heard, the more I realized something. It didn’t matter how she passed. What mattered is that a family lost a daughter and a sister, and I could not even imagine their grief.

This is the third family that I know that has suffered such a loss. In addition to Amy’s passing, the son of one of my husband’s work buddies named Eric also passed in a car accident a couple of years ago. He was the same age as my oldest son. They were both engineering majors who played high school soccer against each other. I remember standing in line at the funeral and looking at the pictures and videos of their family and knowing that there but for the grace of God go I. That event changed me and just months later an online friend lost her son, Andrew, just days before Christmas. He was struggling and sought out help and didn’t get it and he was gone. All that potential and all that future was gone, and nothing I did would bring any of them back. As a parent, I don’t know what you do with that kind of grief. As the friend of those parents, I can only offer a hug and a promise to live better because of those children. Before the passing of Eric and Andrew, I had been struggling with writing my first book. I was so fearful and filled with doubt. I was so caught up in my own life drama that seemed insurmountable. After Eric and Andrew’s passing, I knew that my fear was stupid. I wrote and moved passed the fear of learning how to self-publish. I worked through technical issues. I pushed until the book was finished and published a few months later. I couldn’t do anything for those who passed, but I could live better in memory and in honor of those who passed and those who were left behind. Basically, because of the boys and their families, I got over myself and got on with living.

I am sad and slightly ashamed to say that I have slipped back into that way of living. I have a new dream. I want to create a program to help women, specifically moms, live a better life. I know what I want to do and fear of technology I don’t understand is holding me back. Fear of what I might happen is keeping me from doing the very thing I believe I’ve been called by the Divine to do. Sunday changed that. Sunday reminded me again that life can be short and fragile. Sunday reminded me that answering the call to make the world a better place is bigger than my fear. Sunday changed me yet again.

If I could talk to the parents of these three children, I would tell them that I carry their children in my heart and my spirit always. I would let them know that as they remember their children, I do too. I would tell them that while their time on this Earth was short, they did leave a legacy of inspiration. I am a better person because of each of them. I am a better wife, mother and human being because they existed. They made a difference, and I hope that knowing that would help in some small way. I would also tell the parents of these young people that I love them very much. I admire that they can live each day after their losses. I use that admiration to parent better and to be more understanding and compassionate. I know they may not feel inspirational, but they are. I pray for them often. I wish them joy and peace. I do my best to celebrate their children by raising mine better. It may not be much. It may not be enough, but it is the best I have to give. I hope that someday Eric’s, Andrew’s and Amy’s parents either read this as a blog post or listen to it as an archived broadcast. I hope that it brings them a moment of joy to know their children are remembered and honored and still inspire others to be better human beings because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I hope and I pray and I continue to move forward in my highest calling in part because of them.

I realize that those who listen to my radio shows or read my blog may not have known any of these young people, but I’m willing to bet everyone knows someone whose life appears to have been cut short and it made an impact. I challenge you to use that impact to change the world or at least your life in honor of that person. Maybe you have already and that’s fantastic. Maybe you’re thinking about it, but you aren’t sure of which direction to go, in which case I would tell you to just move forward on something every day. Maybe you don’t know yet what to do with your grief, so I would tell you to sit with it and let it inspire you. I know that sounds crazy to some but if we use our grief to make the world a better place, even a tragic death is never in vain. It doesn’t bring anyone back. It may not soothe the pain of those who have lost a loved one, but it can change your life, direct you to live a better life and improve at least your corner of the world. It helps even a short life live on and I cannot think of a better tribute than that. Thank you all for being who you are and have a great day.


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